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Thread: Today is Atari's 40th Anniversary

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    Default Today is Atari's 40th Anniversary

    40 years ago today (June 27th, 1972), Atari was incorporated. Then there was Pong. Slightly later there was Pong Sports, but you hardly ever hear folk talk about that one, though I personally think it was pretty good.

    But yes, while the venerable Atari might not be the same company as it was in the 1970's, the name lives on and (at least in name and logo) it continues to bring us new games even today.

    What are your Atari memories? The VCS? The 7800? The various Atari computers? Or was your first Atari the Jaguar? Tell us of your games, the joys, the lows, and your personal experiences with that Japanese-named company, Atari!

    (And if you'd like to hear about Harry McCracken's Atari experiences and read a new interview with Nolan Bushnell, check out today's Time article with the founder of Atari. Today's a good day to fire up that Activision classic Laser Blast by David Crane and play a few rounds.)

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    Stuck in 1998 Cloud121's Avatar
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    Funny how I was setting up my classic game room in my new apartment last night, and the first console I hooked up and played was my Jaguar.

    My first Atari was the Jaguar, finally got it in Spring of 2008. eBay auction, it was around $70 shipped. Console was complete in box with two controllers, A/V cord, and several games. AVP, Doom, Wolfenstein, Tempest 2K, Zool 2, Raiden, Cybermorph, Hoverstrike, Kasumi Ninja, and the Weird Named Snowboarding game. I had bought Iron Soldier and a few other games at a local game store a few weeks prior (Pretty much bought out all their Jag stuff. They haven't had anything since). Added all up I think I spent roughly $90 for everything. Probably the best deal I've ever gotten in my life as a collector. Though the free CDX is a close second, followed by a launch model Mega CD complete in box with all documentation and even the original receipt!

    Anyway, back to the Jag. I absolutely love it too death, despite my paranoia that the small cartridge pin will break anytime I insert or remove a cart. Playing it for the first time in almost a year last night, I forgot how absolutely amazing the Wolfenstein port is, and Tempest 2K is addicting as hell.
    My Game Collection
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    Insert Coin (Level 0) Badhornet's Avatar
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    Waking up Christmas morning in 1980 and playing my Atari for the first time. Going to Sears and drooling at their vast display of 2600 games and the cool artwork on the boxes
    The 8 Bit Wonder

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    My first experience with Atari (eh Key Games) was Tank at the local roller rink. It really didn't register within my 8 year old mind, what exactly it was. I just knew it was a cool arcade game that wasn't pinball or a shooting gallery.

    My family got a VCS for Christmas in 1978. It was actually a Sears Tele-Games unit, but in my mind it was an Atari VCS. I remember seeing a real VCS years later at a friends house and thought that the grey power supply looked kind of goofy.

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    My first Atari was the wood-grain 2600. I believe I actually got it in the the summer of 1987. I wish I could remember if it was a four-switch or a six-switch, but I believe it is a four-switch with the A-B difficulty switches on the back of the console. I ended up "inheriting" my Atari 2600 from my Godfather, who's older three children had grown up and moved out of his house. He brought it up to us when he was visiting one summer because I kept nagging my parents for a Nintendo Entertainment System and I think my mom said something to him, at which point they reached the mutual conclusion that it would be a good idea to give his kids' old Atari to me to try and sate my video game hunger. It didn't work, and my hunger for games still lives. "I hunger."

    Before the Atari, I had played those old black-and-white LCD handheld games which we all played in our younger days, but as we all know those can stay entertaining for only a little while. And after my Atari, I had the grander audiovisual fidelity and range - as well as the larger depth of play - of the NES-era games. (My parents, in conjunction with my grandmother, finally bought an NES for me for Christmas 1987.) But my "Atari years" brought me some great, arcade-y experiences that I will never forget.

    The relaxing and yet tense times in Fishing Derby. The simple joys of Video Pinball. The out-of-this-world Yars' Revenge. The surprising depth of Starmaster. The fun and explosions of Space War. The endless adventure of River Raid. The dangers of Pitfall! The... blockiness of Pac-Man (which is still better than no Pac-Man, believe you me!). The dodging adventures of Frogger. And the wicked awesomeness of Imagic games like Demon Attack and Cosmic Ark. And though it was simple, I always enjoyed Laser Blast, especially when you got to get "revenge" by dive-bombing the enemy below.

    Ooh, and don't forget Adventure. I thought that game was great! Hunting down the "trophy," avoiding dragons and bats, trying to get the sword or lance to slay the dragons, having to find the keys in the maze. Years later I learned about the hidden programmer's credit in the game. You know I had to hunt that down!

    And E.T. I know it is popular to bash that game, but when I received my Atari 2600, it was complete. Now I don't mean "all manuals and boxes included," but I mean it included the paddles, joysticks, console, hookups, third-party joysticks, lots of games, most of the manuals, and even the Atari catalogs. I believe E.T. was even complete with the box... and I think it might have been the only complete game in the lot.

    Now trust me, having the manual makes all the difference with E.T. Back then of course, games didn't have tutorials built into them, so the controls had to be easy enough to learn on your own without instructions. It's not that the instruction manuals weren't needed nor fun to read - this was back in the day when instruction manuals were entertaining in and of themselves - but a lot of people dismiss manuals no matter what, so designers almost always made the controls simple and intuitive. But this wasn't always the case, and complex controls or goals were occasionally present, such as with Starmaster or E.T. People complain about E.T. being un-winnable unless you read the manual, but it wasn't just E.T. as at least Starmaster was very confusing and unclear unless you read the instructions. But if you did, Starmaster was brilliant! E.T., while not as brilliant, was still a good deal of fun, and if you followed the steps for success outlined in the manual, you could fix E.T.'s ship and send him home alongside a section of the movie's music. It was, after all, one of the few Atari 2600 games with a definite ending/conclusion.

    Of course, this magic time of dedicated Atari play lasted only about 5-9 months. After all, as incredible as Atari games can be at times, they generally aren't the kind of games which you can play forever without getting bored of them. Return a few months later and they'll seem fresher, but eventually you need more pastures to explore. And in the rural part of America in which I lived, it was uncommon to be able to find Atari games after Atari's years of great popularity. They just dried up once the NES waltzed into town, hidden away in attics or thrown away because people didn't think anyone was interested in them anymore. Sometimes that worked to my advantage though because occasionally people would rediscover them in the attic or basement and sale them at a garage sale. And with my Atari ready at home for more games, 25 - $1 to buy up some new games was a steal of a deal! And if I was buying some NES games or newer, if I was fortunate enough the person would say, "Oh, you know, if you want some more games to buy, I think we have some older stuff inside. Do you play Atari games?" You know the answer was, "Yes!"

    This lead to a funny situation over time. I would buy up Atari and other games just because I would hate to see them ignored, collecting dust, then baking in the sun, just to be boxed up again and stored away somewhere remote. Or I didn't want to break up the sets, because they had spent their "lives" together and it would have been too sad to break them up, like orphaning kids from their family. So I would buy up all they had if I could with my meager childhood savings or whatever I could plead from my mom. What's funny about this (besides my sentimentality) is how many copies of Combat I acquired. That game is so common that even in the rural sticks I kept finding it everywhere. I soon amassed a small pile of Combat cartridges. After I think I had three or more at home, I vowed not to buy any more because... what do I need so many copies of one game for? Especially a game which isn't that good. Don't misunderstand, it is terrific fun with a group of friends as you hunt down each others' tanks and planes, and even the single player isn't too bad, but you can only play for so long before you go, "Yeah, it has lots of variants, but... I've pretty much seen all this game has to offer." Yet I'd still see copies of it at yard sales all the time, even when they didn't' have any other Atari games for sale... sometimes it would be the sole video game at a group of yard sales! But my cold, logical heart began to melt with time, and as the garage sale games began to dry up, I wouldn't even pass on a good old Combat cartridge. Sometimes, when I see them in the few small-time game shops which still exist, I think to myself, "Ah, I should buy that game just because it looks so lonely and no-one else would bring home a copy of Combat. It'll sit here forever without me!" Then I remember all the copies I have at home and I'd think, "But this could be a label variant I don't have!" But then I would retort to myself that was probably just sun-fading which changed the color.

    Years later, I played "Lords of LUNAR." For those of you who don't know, this was a hidden game for LUNAR: Silver Star Story Complete on the PlayStation (1). If you watched the making-of video, you could enter a button sequence to play this hidden game. The game was the same as the classic Warlords game for Atari VCS, the difference being that LUNAR character portraits were inside the castles. You could even play four-player mode if you had a PS Multi-tap. But I digress. The game was brilliant, and I knew I had to track down the Atari original. I don't know how I eventually acquired it (perhaps from a second-hand store or yard sale like most of my Atari collection) but whether I had to resort to eBay or not, I got this game... and Warlords was just as stunningly fun as its PlayStation counterpart. You could even get people who were usually non-gamers to join the fun. And with the Atari, you could simply have four players using the paddles instead of uncommon PlayStation hardware like the Multi-tap or the (at the time expensive) controllers which you'd need. It's amazing how easy it is even these days to get a group of people playing an Atari if you just try.

    Ah, the good times and many adventures. So whether it was way back when with my first Atari games, or the various ones I've collected over the years, or even the emulated compilations I play now and again across the various consoles over the years, I suppose Atari will be with me for many years yet. After all, I'm not planning on letting go of my collection of games and gaming paraphernalia anytime soon, so I suppose I just might have all my Atari goods... in another 40 years.

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